[Assam] China adds to India’s woes
Pradip Kumar Datta
pradip200 at yahoo.com
Tue May 27 13:59:49 IST 2008
China adds to India’s woes
— Dr Monika Chansoria
Trouble appears to be brewing amongst the Asian nations, including India, with China building a massive strategic underground submarine naval base that could house N-submarines and a host of aircraft carriers on Hainan Island. in South China Sea, south of Hong Kong. The base, being built near the holiday resort of Sanya on Hainan Island’s southern tip, was revealed by commercial satellite images on May 3, 2008.
According to satellite imagery reported by the Federation of American Scientists and Britain’s Daily Telegraph, the base has a sea entrance wide enough to allow submarines to enter the underground facilities with as many as 11 tunnel openings.
Beijing seems to have circumspectly designed this new base since it stands at close proximity to vital sea-lanes in the South China Sea and Straits of Malacca. The Chinese are resolute to protect this since 80 per cent of its oil supplies presently move through the channel before traversing the South China Sea to mainland ports. In addition, the location could give China better access to disputed territories, such as the Parcel Islands and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
Furthermore, the Hainan Island underground base, incidentally, will house the new Shang-class Type 093 nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and the in-class Type-094 SSBNs. Moreover, the new Type 094 Jin-class submarines were captured in the images.
‘The Jin-class includes 12 missile silos and will be equipped with Julang-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles with a reported maximum range of almost 5,000 miles. The location of the base off Hainan are expected to give the submarines access to very deep waters—exceeding 15,000 feet—within a few miles. making them even harder to detect.
Refusing to confirm or deny the submarine base, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said, “There is no need for the Western countries to be worried, or concerned, or make any irresponsible accusations. We have a vast territorial sea and it is the sacred duty of the Chinese army to safeguard the sovereignty of our territorial sea and maritime rights and interests. China’s national defence and military building will not pose a threat to any country.”
Palpably. these developments are being monitored minutely in India since New Delhi holds significant security interests in the Indian Ocean. Expressing security concerns at China’s nuclear submarine base. Indian Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta said, “Though India is not worried about Beijing building a strategic naval base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea, it is concerned about the numbers. Nuclear submarines have long legs (traversing anywhere between 7,000-15,000 km) and it is immaterial where they are based.” Apparently, unlike conventional (diesel-electric) submarines, nuclear-powered submarines have the ability to remain submerged for long periods of time.
Incidentally. India successfully tested its 3,500 km-range nuclear capable intermediate range ballistic missile Agni-III on May 7, 2008. Agni III is capable of reaching targets in Beijing and Shanghai and is ready for induction. Although India possesses air and land-based nuclear delivery platforms in the form of ballistic missiles (Agni and Prithvi), an undersea platform such as a nuclear submarine, the third leg of a nuclear triad, remains deficient.
Indian Navy is considered to be the world’s fifth largest and New Delhi for years has been pursuing indigenous nuclear-powered submarine capability, under what is known as the ATV pursuing (advanced technology vessel) project. Moreover, New Delhi is in discussions with Moscow for a 12,000-ton Akula-11 class nuclear submarine. In case it finds success, India would be the sixth country to follow the US. Russia. Britain. France and China to boast of a sea borne nuclear deterrent.
Crucially, there is a sizeable section of the strategic community within India that views China as a long-term military threat, surpassing Pakistan. China’s ‘strategic encirclement strategy of India’ is of critical significance for New Delhi where in Beijing it has built the Gwadar port, as an alternative to Karachi, beyond the easy reach of Indian Navy. Similarly, on India’s vulnerable northeast, China has a close ally in Myanmar, which will be providing China direct access to the Indian Ocean by passing the Malacca Straits. In the south, Sri Lanka is receiving special attention from China, where Beijing is developing the Hambantota port in the southern tip of the island, which dominates the Indian Ocean shipping lanes.
Even though, Chinese nuclear submarines have so far never operated in the Indian Ocean, this latest facility—which is 2.000 nautical miles away from the Andaman Islands—will be its nearest access point to the region. Given the huge volumes of oil movement between the Persian Gulf and the Malacca Straits towards North Asia, the Indian Navy has been looking to plug this deficiency.
Significantly, another crucial factor impinging on Asia’s strategic paradigm is China’s “String of Pearls” phenomenon that describes Beijing’s rising geopolitical influence through efforts to increase access to ports and airfields. develop special diplomatic relationships, and modernize military forces that extend from the South China Sea through the Straits of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and on to the Arabian Gulf.
Militarily. the US too would be intent at maintaining superior military power to guarantee security and serve as a hedge against a possible future “China threat”. In the “String of Pearls” region, US efforts are aimed at broadening and deepening American influence among the regional states, including India. There is an emerging sense that the growing defence cooperation between emerging , Washington, and New Delhi could well be attributed to the commonality of the ‘China factor’.
The ‘Malabar CY 07-2’ naval exercises in the Bay of Bengal held in the first week of September last year, precisely demonstrated this and undeniably represented a major shift in India’s strategic security perceptions. The exercises were the largest-ever naval exercise in this part of the world, with as many as 10 warships and nearly 200 aircrafts from five participating nations comprising Australia, Japan, India, the US, and Singapore.
Besides, in a clear departure from the past, it signaled India’s entry into the ‘quadrilateral initiative’, a new strategic security combine in which New Delhi joins as a key member of the security triad of Australia, Japan and the US—developments that add on to Beijing’s strategic concern vis-a-vis the emerging Asian security paradigm. –INFA
Source: Assam Tribune
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